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UXR Spotlight: Rachel Abbott

Rachel Abbott
Rachel Abbott

This spotlight was part of USERWEEKLY - a weekly email to understand what is happening in user research. It's the best way to keep up on trends, methodologies, insights across the industry, and meet new researchers. Each week, the newsletter captures the pulse of our community and answers a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?

Hi Rachel, tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, I’m Rachel Abbott and I’m a Senior User Research Consultant at Hippo Digital, a full service design consultancy based in the UK. We work in the public and private sectors, with a large amount of our work being with government department. I’ve previously been a researcher on projects with Department for Education, NHS Digital, Cabinet Office and Defra. I also line manage and support other user researchers at Hippo. Outside of work, I play clarinet in an orchestra for returning musicians, and I’m a coach and skater at Birmingham Roller Derby.

What originally got you interested in UX Research?
I’ve been a user researcher at Hippo for 3 years, but before that I was a team leader and safeguarding lead at a substance misuse support service. I’d worked in that field since I graduated university in 2007, starting off supporting people one-to-one involved in the criminal justice system, and eventually moving onto managing a team and advising on high risk and safeguarding cases. The work involved a lot of asking people the right questions, being empathetic to their points of view and experiences, communication skills, behaviour change approaches, risk management, and of course planning and organisation.

Once I found out about user research as a career option (from friends already working in digital teams) - it seemed to me that I had a lot of transferable skills. It’s why digital behaviour change and behavioural design interest me as they merge the two areas. Moving away from the charity sector was a hard decision - but it was the right one. I really like being able to work on services that are used by so many people in their daily lives.

If you had unlimited budget and time for research, what would you do with it?
This is the dream! I really miss in person research - the practice is starting to filter back in now in a slightly apprehensive way. Working through the pandemic meant all researchers had to adapt to new ways of engaging with participants but it’s not always ideal, especially for participants with accessibility needs.

If I had the time and budget I would love to do a big juicy piece of mixed methods research over a longer period of time involving contextual observation, video diaries, usability studies and group co-design sessions. Really building up that rich picture around understanding people in natural environments and situations, which we’ve not been able to do for so long.

How can people learn more about you and your work?
You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter and read my blogs on the Hippo Digital Medium site.

I’m really interested in doing more blogs, webinars and talks, so if you’d like to collaborate or make any suggestions, get in touch!

Thank you, Rachel!